Sunday 23rd April 2006
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Manics... Clean-Cut Champs!!!

Championship deciders rarely disappoint. With so much resting on such games, it's hardly a surprise. But can the same levels of excitement and tension be replicated in a Sunday League game? You bet they can. With a local element added, Manics Reserves vs Priestwood was a derby too, and the players responded superbly. A clean game, contested by easily the best two teams in the division. The maths was simple. Manics needed a draw or a win, for Priestwood only a win would do.

In their familiar midnight navy strip, Manics Reserves started brightly - in the great Manics tradition. Chris Wilson's trickery and Lee Blackmans pace and awareness created a clutch of early chances for the home team. After just 7 minutes, the deadlock was deservedly broken. Barry Herman, whose energy never seems to drop, found himself at the right place at the right time to steer home an effort into the corner of the net at the second attempt. Although his goal celebrations were understandable, there was still a lot of work to do.

The goal did nothing for the Manics' momentum as Priestwood took a grip of the game. Their skipper Steven Bell soon began to come to grips with the threat of Wilson and Blackman and their increasingly combatant midfield duo stood strong against Ben Westwood and Herman in the middle of the park. Their no.9 worked tirelessly and was a constant danger, keeping David Fenton and Brian Judge very busy in central defence. The first half, despite the goal, elsewhere belonged to Priestwood. However a succession of corners and long range efforts proved fruitless, thanks largely to wayward finishing, bad luck and one inspirational save from Manics keeper Chris Adams.

So at half-time the Manics were in front. The huddle that preceded the second half confirmed their commitment to the cause, as leader James Blackman urged his troops to keep the faith. After they had thrown away three points so many times in recent weeks, the Manics were more determined than ever not to let the title slip. This attitude prompted a resolute rear-guard action from the league leaders, but not many waves of swift attacks.

Again possession belonged to Priestwood as the likes of Westwood and Blackman (who had dropped into midfield) struggled to get a clean hold of the ball. Manics only attacking passes came from the boot of the manager, James Blackman, who continually sought out runs from Herman, Wilson and the wing wizards turned almost wing-backs David Comper and Harry Clowse. However, they just couldn't make the ball stick as Priestwood threatened an equaliser. Adams, Fenton and Judge must have been pleased that all the away team could muster was long range efforts: until one of the goals of the season was scored. From around 25 yards out, the Priestwood skipper, whose influence had grown as the game grew old, blasted an unstoppable equaliser past an awe-struck Adams.

This goal strenghtened the Manics resolve, as Priestwood camped out in the Manics half of the field. As tiredness set in, Wilson failed to get enough support as he tried to hold the ball up. Long range chance followed long range chance as Priestwood began to run out of ideas. With any rare attacking ventures dying because of wayward finishing or the unwelcome sight of an offside flag, the Manics looked drained.

Luke Phillips replaced Wilson with 10 minutes remaining, as James Blackman attempted to freshen the legs up front. And Phillips almost put the seal on the title with a speculative strike from the halfway line, but his shot was too weak to trouble Perry in the Priestwood goal. This foray up front was a rare excursion for the Manics as Priestwood kept pushing against the Manics, but they found a central defensive team that refused to be broken. Judge and Fenton let nothing go past them throughout the game and frustrated the title challengers until the final whistle went. And when it did sound it sparked massive celebrations on the pitch and on the side line. 1-1, enough for league glory.

In their first season Bracknell Manics can proudly boast silverware. Assured in a championship decider that did not disappoint at all. Well done to FC Priestwood who in true sportsmanship tried so hard to make it their name on the trophy, but the character of the Manics shone through..

Scorers: Herman (1).
Assists: Wilson (1).

The Manics Man of the Match went to David Fenton and the Referee's Player of the Match went to Ben Westwood.

Thanks to the fans who came to watch!

 Final Result: Bracknell Manics Res 1 FC Priestwood 1

 Man of the Match
   "Mouse will find it"
David Fenton  

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